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Tunisia: Qtel doubles stake in Wataniya to further control Tunisiana

Qatar Telecom (Qtel) has almost doubled its stake in Kuwaiti operator Wataniya to bring it to 92.1 per cent, giving an instant boost to its bottom line and more control of subsidiaries in the high growth markets of Algeria and Tunisia.

Qtel, which operates in 16 countries across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, will pay $ 1.8 billion to increase its stake in Wataniya from 52.5 percent, it said in a statement released Sunday.

“For the past couple of years the geopolitical situation in the Middle East has made it riskier to buy into new assets, so Qtel has prioritized raising its stakes in existing units where it knows the market and the other shareholders,” said Marc Hammoud, Deutsche Bank telecoms analyst, in Dubai.

Qtel consolidates Wataniya’s net profit on a pro rata basis. In 2011, the firm made a net profit of 362 million dinars from its operations in Kuwait, Algeria, Tunisia, the Maldives, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Territories.

Wataniya owns 71 percent of Algeria’s Nedjma and 75 percent of Tunisia’s Tunisiana, with this pair’s revenue up 33 and 116 percent respectively last year, according to Qtel’s results.

However, Kuwait has accounted for about 90 percent of the net profit of Wataniya, last year, with the country’s average revenue per user (ARPU) among the highest in the Gulf.

The Wataniya deal is Qtel’s second major buy this year after agreeing in June to double its stake in Iraq’s No. 2 operator Asiacell to 60 percent for $1.47 billion.

Yet Qtel is unlikely to take full control of Tunisiana, despite the government set to offload its remaining 25 percent stake, because it wants to sell to a financial investor, rather than a telecom firm.


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